A Thought for Every Category

Because, after all, it’s an everything in between kind of day, n’est pas?

Do I Dare to Eat a Peach?

Sam and I live in a small condominium community. We rent our condo from a lovely woman, who has owned it for over twenty years.  We rented it originally out of desperation, needing a place to move to post-haste, and moved ourselves right into a small retirement village.  As Sam noted when we first moved in, for the first time in our lives people looked at us with that “Now the neighborhood is going to hell” glint in their eyes.  At any rate. We didn’t move this spring out of sheer complacency, which is regrettable. Regrettable (1.) because living this far from work and commuting does not line up with how we like to think of ourselves. We feel this kind of commute is immoral – bad for the city, bad for the environment, bad for community participation – a recent study showed that for every ten minutes commuting, an HOUR of community participation is sacrificed. But in May when we had to renew our lease Sam had finals and I was receiving my MFA and in the midst of all that paper work we took the easy way out. It’s regrettable (2.) because all of our neighbors are avid gardeners – Sam refers this as the Senior Gardening Explosion.  So all the little plots around all the little condos (with our the notable exception) are veritable works of art – climbing roses, ivy, blooming bushes, African violets, and…marigolds. Marigolds, to which I am hideously, horribly allergic.  I forgot about this allergy because in Pittsburgh there are no flowers (okay, not really. But I lived in an apartment building in the city so I wasn’t in close proximity to any). Our neighbor Joyce has planted only marigolds, and now my eyes are all closed up and red, I have cluster headaches on the left side of my face, I’m sneezing constantly and I have a rash EVERYWHERE.  I do not like taking allergy medicine because I feel the drowsly, nearly-stoned feeling it generates is not worth it, and so I soldier on, bravely – wearing my glasses instead of my contacts and itching my stomach compulsively for who knows how long. I thought about asking Joyce to remove her marigolds but really, she spent so much money on them! And she is extremely proud of her flowers, and spends hours with them every day.  All that said…my practicality has finally trumped my vanity and I am wondering around in my glasses for the first time in a decade, and haven’t turned anyone to stone yet. 

Everything In Between

Last night at the Tiger’s game we sat in between the most interesting mixture of people. Directly behind us sat a father and three of his (adult) sons.  The father kept gazing around the (jam-packed) ball park and saying “It’s so nice to see such a full park. It’s just, so nice to see.” His sons continually agreed with him, and got up often to get their father hotdogs, beer and soft pretzels.  To our right was the World’s Quietest Family – a mom, a dad, a daughter and two sons, all who watched the game silently, never speaking to one another or to those surrounding them, even when Gomez hit a home run.  I mean, not a word.  I considered this bizarre – Sam considered the children well-behaved. I see visions of parenting disagreements.  To our left sat the most unhappy, professional couple I’ve seen in a long time.  Both wore their work clothes to the game, and they sat as far away from each other as possible.  The woman kept trying to sneak smokes and kept getting caught and the man just stared at the game, every so often trying to introduce conversation with her, which she kept shutting down.  In front of us sat a bank of 30+ year old men, and I can only assume they were single because they didn’t once watch the game but instead spent the hours text messaging people NOT with them and then loudly sharing responses from girls who texted them back.

When the Astros sent in a relief pitcher for Clemens everybody stood up and clapped. Jaded as I am with too many American football games, I said to Sam:

“Why are they all clapping when every one here came to see him pitch? It’s rude!”

Sam said “They are clapping out of respect for him because he pitched an exceptional game.”  So, there’s that. Baseball – the gentleman’s sport.

Hillary Watch

Granholm FINALLY launched her ad campaign against Dick DeVos this week, but this morning I read that DeVos had a personal fortune worth millions and intends to continually spend his own money on this campaign.  Since Granholm’s campaign funds will never match DeVos’s fortune, I’m growing more and more worried. Surely we are too smart to allow the rich whims of a former Amway exec to buy us? But then again, I thought that during the presidential elections as well.

Michigan Meditations

I wish you could have been with us in Detroit last night! Fireworks exploded over the city after the game, music boomed across the sky, and revelers flooded the streets. Strangers hugged each other.  Greektown sparkled in haze of pink and yellow glitter; the air smelled like lamb and garlic and beer and pastry.  It’s not your old Detroit anymore, and to that end I’ll be introducing an occasional category that discusses Detroit history, as I embark on researching my new book. We’ll look at the architecture, the landmarks, the music, the autoindustry, the Jesuit community, the history of white flight, the rise of the drug trade, relationships with Canada, etc. Don’t worry – I’ll clearly label the subject line in case you want to skip these posts. 

On the Nightstand

Still reading War and Remembrance but will take a break for the next week since I’m going on vacation – Sam and I are going to the library tonight to pick up some fun vacation reading…I plan to fall into some mysteries, myself. For Sam, ‘fun’ reading probably means a few biographies.

Sisterhood, Sacrificed

If one more conservative Christian group comes along to decry the new HPV vaccine I’m going to lose my mind.  I mean, don’t get the vaccine if you feel uncertain about its effect on the body, I totally get that, but the argument that it will encourage young girls to be sexually active just isn’t plausible.  I mean, with so much to worry about regarding our daughters, sisters and friends, shouldn’t we take this one small thing of a very long list?

The Northern Woods

According to an OpEd piece in the Detroit Free Press this week, if the federal courts allow environmentalists to ‘win’ the war on the Au Sable, which means Savoy Energy won’t be able to drill for natural gas around the Mason Tract, environmentalist will be granted too much power and, I quote, “given their way on everything.”  This from the paper that didn’t publish my letter to the editor!  I reported on this drilling issue three years ago, and I’ve been following it closely ever since.  I love how environmentalist has suddenly become a dirty word – people say it much the same way they’d say pornographer.  So far these greedy people have some how managed to keep Savoy from tearing up what should be federally protected land which proves that some times, the small guys do win. 

The Private

Last night Sam saw his hero pitch in a baseball game and I saw so many shades of the boy he must have been – my husband, the man who hates to have a hair out of place, who can’t stand a dish in the sink, well, he hooted and he hollered and he stamped his feet and he shouted “Let’s go, Tigers!” and he rattled his keys and he high-fived complete strangers…he exulted.

The Public

50,000 Iraqui’s dead – the latest report shows.  And yet our media continually replays Bush’s public chastisement of the New York Times instead of reporting on this.  Make of that what you will.

Time for a Hundred Visions and Revisions

I was going to do a little blurb on writing but this post has gone on far to long and I have too much work to do, so let’s just say that I’ve decided to take all of you along with me on my newest project, which is a significant immersion into Detroit.  I hope you’ll come with me.

You Love is Like Bad Poetry

I apologize…I have no poetry for you today.  I have to wait for the muse of bad poetry to strike.  Take a raincheck?

This entry was posted in Do I Dare to Eat A Peach, Everything In Between, Hillary Watch, Michigan Meditations, On the Nightstand, Sisterhood Sacrificed, The Northern Woods, The Private, The Public, Time for a Hundred Visions and Revisions, Your Love Is Like Bad Poetry. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to A Thought for Every Category

  1. bloglily says:

    Wow! Everything here is so terrific. We love baseball in our house, so I particularly enjoyed your description of the people around you in the park.

    Your idea about doing a series on Detroit is wonderful. I cannot wait to see what you have to say. Will you take pictures? I hope so. Cheers! BL (I can’t believe my good fortune to have found your terrific site.)

  2. Thanks for the comment! I’ll definately be taking pictures of Detroit as I go along – I’m savng up for a digital camera right now. I’m thrilled you’ll be along for the journey!

  3. Jean tried to respond yesterday with the below article but her computer froze – it’s an excellent article and one I hope will successfully post now…thanks, Jean!

    The Unlimited Loopholes of Campaign Finance
    By Anne Stanton
    With all of the talk about campaign finance reform, many people in Northern Michigan were amazed to read about the sheer size of campaign contributions to State Sen. Jason Allen’s leadership PAC.
    Most notably was a $20,000 donation given by the CEO of a development company, Federated Properites, that was favored to build a controversial Traverse City parking deck. Associates of the developer’s front man donated an additional $12,000.
    Isn’t there a limit, after all, on how much money can be given to one of these political action committees?
    Well, in fact, it’s completely legal to give an unlimited amount of money.
    That’s how an Auburn Hills housewife was able to make a contribution of $40,000 to Allen’s leadership PAC, which was reported in the Traverse City Record-Eagle a few weeks ago.
    Linda Shea, the contributor, is actually married to multi-millionaire Jim Shea, who co-owns P.K. Contracting. She lists herself as a “homemaker” in campaign finance disclosure documents.
    Mr. Shea’s corporation isn’t allowed to donate to the PAC, yet there’s no problem with Mrs. Shea writing a check. And in case you were wondering, P.K. Contracting earns millions of dollars of our state tax dollars each year by painting state highway lines.
    “For a minute, let’s give the elected official the benefit of the doubt. But why would a contributor give somebody $40,000? Because of the way they look? No! They’re investors and they want a return on their investment,” said Rich Robinson, who lives and breathes this stuff.
    Admittedly, most campaign donors aren’t looking for a return on their investment, but just want someone in office who agrees with them philosophically–stronger funding for schools, for example, or tax cuts for businesses. But when the donations soar into the stratosphere, it becomes easier to “connect the dots” to a bill that’s especially advantageous to the contributor. There’s not a politician in the world, however, who would ever admit acting on legislation simply because of a campaign donation.
    “People think, what’s wrong with campaign contributions? It helps people get elected. So what?” Robinson said. “The ‘so what’ is that whether you’re buying a car or selling a house or paying your monthly utility bill or having a drink with a friend, there’s an interest group in Lansing who wants a bigger dip into your wallet–and they usually don’t have difficulty finding a legislator to help them. That’s really the so what.”
    Robinson’s job is to bird-dog the buying and selling of public policy. He serves as the executive director of the nonpartisan, nonprofit Michigan Campaign Finance Network in Lansing.
    Most people find campaign finance complex and boring. So Robinson offers up a couple of illustrations to show why it matters.
    Let’s get back to P.K. Contracting.
    Three years ago, the State Legislature was developing its 2003-2004 budget, and Sen. Shirley Johnson (R-Royal Oak) attached a section of what’s called boilerplate language to the Senate version of the state’s transportation budget.
    Her boilerplate specified that the state “shall use the highest quality pavement marking materials for all state trunkline projects. The department shall… ensure improved durability, retro-reflectivity and wet reflective capability.”
    That might sound positive, but Robinson thought it was fishy. Robinson filed a Freedom of Information Act request and learned some interesting things from a Michigan Department of Transportation analysis.
    First, the higher standard for trunk line marking would cost taxpayers an additional $9 million per year. Nine million! At a time legislators and the governor were scrambling to find money for schools and poor children.
    Second, only one vendor in Michigan, P.K. Contracting, handled the higher-quality material. And third, the life expectancy for the line-marking material was arguably longer than the lifespan of many roadbeds. And finally, the members of the Shea family had contributed $20,000 to the leadership PAC of Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema and $9,650 to the campaign committee of Sen. Shirley Johnson.
    “This had the look of a $9 million bon-bon to me,” Robinson said. “Interestingly, when the Senate and House met to reconcile their two versions of the budget, that section of boilerplate was dropped.
    “I don’t know, but I assume my FOIA request had something to do with it.
    “And now it appears that the Sheas are showing plenty of love to Jason Allen. It looks like the Sheas are betting that Sen. Allen will be the next majority leader, and I imagine he will remember that $40,000 from Linda Shea when budget season rolls around next year.”
    The most outrageous example of influence buying took place during the lame duck session of 2002, Robinson said.
    When you buy a car, you pay a documentary fee, and in theory, it’s to reimburse the dealer for processing the paperwork with the Department of State.
    “That fee had been capped at $40 in the early 1990s as a consumer protection measure, because it usually doesn’t come into the discussion until the end of the car deal, and then they spring it on you,” Robinson said.
    “Representative Marc Shulman (R-West Bloomfield), who chaired the House Appropriations Committee, said, ‘We’ve gotta change the limit on the auto documentary fee.’ He put in this bill so they could charge up to $250. And furthermore, it would be re-evaluated every year in accordance with the consumer price index and rounded off to the nearest hundred dollars.
    “So the next year, it could go up to $300. At any rate, some kind of humility finally prevailed, and they passed into law a new cap of $160. They just quadrupled it! That alone is worth $100 million to the auto dealers, every year, just on new car sales, let alone used cars. You look at it and the auto dealers give money to almost every legislator who is sucking air, and the vote was darn near unanimous.”
    “The direct-to-consumer wine shipment was another example where the beer and wine wholesalers gave money to everybody in the legislature, except half a dozen teetotalers. And they easily found legislators who were perfectly willing to carry water for them.”
    The background on this: Michigan consumers historically could buy wine directly from Michigan wineries, but not from wineries in other states. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that Michigan had to allow its citizens to order directly from all wineries in the country or none at all. Rep. Chris Ward (R-Brighton), who had received $7,300 for his leadership PAC and his campaign account from the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers PAC, introduced a bill to ban direct sales from all wineries, a move to protect sales of wholesalers.
    Suddenly, thanks to this PAC and Rep. Ward, the state’s little wineries were facing the prospect of ending direct shipments to their customers, and perhaps closing altogether.
    “The way they packaged it was, ‘We don’t want children ordering wine off the Internet.’ Well, people had been ordering wine on the Internet and there were protections to keep it away from minors. Did they think the young wine snobs who weren’t interested in Michigan wine were suddenly going to get crafty enough to outsmart the law to get a bottle from California? No, this was all about protecting the wholesalers’ monopoly.
    “If it hadn’t been on every editorial page in the state, editorial writers asking, ‘How does this square with a free market?’ they would have gotten away with it.
    “People do buy and sell public policy. Everybody has a vague, uneasy feeling about money in politics, and when they see how the game is played, their uneasiness turns into outrage.”
    When a candidate runs for office, he or she forms a committee to help pay for the campaign. That committee can only accept a limited amount of money from a PAC or an individual, but those limits are practically meaningless.
    Why is that? Because a PAC can work together with the candidate’s election committee on how to best spend its money.
    For example, the candidate committee can say to the PAC, okay, we have enough money to pay for the airtime on the major networks, so why don’t you pay for the commercials running on the cable channels.
    This cooperation contrasts to federal rules that say there must be a “wall” between a PAC and a candidate committee, Robinson said.
    Corporations can’t legally give money to PACs, but that rule is also pretty meaningless. That’s because a corporation can simply form its own PAC and collect money from all of its board members, shareholders, and managerial employees—even set up a payroll deduction.
    The redeeming feature of an independent PAC is that the donations and donors are open to public scrutiny. (See sidebar on how to research political donations.)
    Another problem: there’s a huge time lag between donations and the time that donations are finally publicly reported. That means a company can “influence” a certain piece of legislation, and it’s old news or too late by the time the donations are public. Robinson wants “real-time” reporting, or at least quarterly reporting.
    The truly significant problem is what’s called soft and hidden money.

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